Saturday, February 25, 2023

The House on the Brink, by John Gordon

The House on the Brink is John Gordon's second novel, published in 1970, after his first, The Giant Under the Snow (1968). Both are a kind of folk horror for young adults, and both are in the mold of Alan Garner, with children protagonists encountering weird phenomenon. The House on the Brink has also been acclaimed as a novel in the style of M.R. James's ghost stories, but there is little spookiness in this flat tale of two teens who are haunted by a recurring tree stump in the marshes which may or may not be animated, and in association with a local legend of King John's lost treasure. The teens also learn they are water diviners, and they mix with peculiar adults with potentially sinister motives. This could have made a good story, but the real problem is in Gordon's punchy newspaper-styled prose, with lots of sentence fragments and metaphors that stick out like sore thumbs. This leads to many ambiguous sections where the reader simply isn't told properly what has happened, and is left to infer by subsequent events. As a story I found it a real disappointment.

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